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WIDE-FORMAT PRINTING In the Photo Lab
What to look for when buying a wide-format inkjet printer


Canon
Epson
HP

As labs and photo specialty stores look to increase revenue, it is more important than ever to be able to provide wide-format printing services to your clientele.

John Flacko, marketing manager, Business Development, FUJIFILM Hunt Chemicals U.S.A., Inc., explains, "With digital photography still growing, its affect on analog services like film development, proofing, etc. will only get worse. Adding new services [is] the key to success."

Ben Wolf, Creative Segment market manager, HP, explains, "Wide-format is now so common in the photo space (and growing) that if the lab doesn't offer it currently, they'll be at a competitive disadvantage."

Rich Reamer, senior manager, Large Format Printer Div., Canon U.S.A., Inc. explains, "With the growth of digital cameras, photographers at all levels are looking at new and unique ways for displaying their images." He adds, "It is marketing to the "pro-sumer" photographer that photo labs and retail establishments can realize revenue growth through large format photography prints."

Recent advances in technology have helped to spur the increased use of wide-format inkjet printing. Print longevity, smaller dots, improved inks, quad black inks, and a wide variety of media options all add to the increase in inkjet printing; in addition to third-party RIPs increasing productivity.

Desired Features

What are some of the important things to consider when purchasing a printer for use in a production environment?

Color quality, consistency and accuracy, versatility, productivity, and a variety of available media.

Canon's Reamer notes, "First and foremost is print quality and "out of the box" color. These are important attributes to most retail photo establishments who are...mainly printing straight from client files."

Flacko suggests that, "The printer you choose should be robust enough to withstand the riggers of your particular production environment." He adds: "Print quality is what you will be selling to your customers, so make sure it is at a level that not only they expect, but reflects your own standards."

"Print speed is another important issue, as productivity is essential, the more prints you can output in a single day directly contributes to revenue," Reamer adds.

"Alternate substrates like canvas, fine-art paper, scrim vinyl and poster boards are great revenue generators," says Flacko. And-as time is money-it should be relatively easy for your staff to change media and set up the printer to output on alternate substrates.

You need to decide how wide a printer you want to install, 24", 44" or 60". Wolf suggests you should go as wide as your space and budget will allow. He says, "For HP, the most common size we see for photo labs in terms of sales is in the 44"-wide model of the Z3100. For higher-volume production, the 44" or 60" Z6100 is the best choice. The price difference between the 24" and 44" Z2100 and Z3100 models is typically not that great, which would suggest moving up to the larger size to accommodate more applications/sizes of prints."

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